It was a rising ball from Manjeet Chaudhary that came into Uday Kaul’s body. The left-hander tried to pull himself away, got an edge to the ball and saw it settling into the waiting hands of Ashish Yadav at leg slip, a position that saw a fielder only on that one occasion as Kaul walked off, shaking his head. It was the beginning of the collapse that saw Punjab fold for 215, conceding a 116-run lead to Railways on Day Three, at the Air Force Sports Complex here on Saturday.
Barring a brief struggle in the middle, Railways was firmly in control of the game at stumps, scoring 180 for two in its second essay for a comfortable 296-run lead. With Shivakant Shukla settled on 83 and chasing his second century of the game and Mahesh Rawat unbeaten on 34, Railways looks set to walk away with three points from the match though coach J. P. Yadav is eyeing all six with a target of 350-360 runs in the fourth innings. Chaudhary, who moved from Rajasthan, was its wrecker-in-chief with four wickets, three on Saturday morning.
Having toiled hard the day before, Chaudhary continued his strangling line. The pair of Gurkeerat Mann and Kaul was crucial for Punjab to put up a strong challenge but Chaudhary had other ideas. His first ball of the day was the first one faced by Gurkeerat and the latter flicked it to Yadav at gully. Kaul managed to add two to his overnight score before perishing. Vinay Chaudhary’s leg stump crashed soon after as Punjab fell to 176 for seven with only the bowlers left and there was little they could do, being all out 35 minutes before lunch.
“It is too early to say whether our purpose in drafting Manjeet in has been served but it is on the right track. He has done what he was expected to do and I am satisfied with his performance so far,” Yadav praised his key bowler.
With the wicket easing up completely and the ball staying low and straight with neither bounce nor turn, all efforts from Punjab bowlers were in vain as Sourabh Wakaskar and Shukla rotated the strike with an occasional boundary to up the run rate. The openers managed to put up 110 runs before tea, but cramps forced Wakaskar to hobble back into the den. The partnership broken, a run out by Gitansh Khera and diving catch by Mann had Railways wobbling before Mahesh Rawat walked out to steady the innings.
“Both these batsmen are crucial. Coming back after two years and getting two hundreds in the opening match will be a big morale-booster for Shiva. And Mahesh is one of our strongest players. It was a serious hit he took on the collar bone on Day One but came back brilliantly. We rely a lot on him,” Yadav added. Having already added 69 runs, the duo would be key to whether the coach gets his wish. Three points wouldn’t hurt, though.
The scores (round one, day three):
At Jaipur: Baroda 544 for eight decl. vs. Gujarat 277 for four in 105 overs (Samit Gohil 43, Bhargav Merai 70, Manpreet Juneja 66 batting, Rujul Bhatt 38 batting)
At Lahli: Tamil Nadu 87 & 185 in 62.4 overs (Abhinav Mukund 56, Washington Sundar 40, Dhawal Kulkarni six for 47, Vijay D. Gohil three for 36) lost to Mumbai 176 & 97 for eight in 35.3 overs (Abhishek Nayar 45 n.o., Aswin Crist four for 43, K. Vignesh four for 29)
At New Delhi (Palam): Railways 331 & 180 for two in 67 overs (Saurabh Wakaskar 56 retired hurt, Shivakant Shukla 83 batting, Mahesh Rawat 34 batting) vs. Punjab 215 in 80.1 overs (Uday Kaul 61, Gurkeerat Mann 66, Manjeet Chaudhary four for 56)
At Hyderabad: Madhya Pradesh 465 & 118 for two in 53 overs (Tanmay Srivastava 60 batting) vs. Uttar Pradesh 176 in 63.2 overs (Eklavya Dwivedi 37, Kuldeep Yadav 36, Ishwar Pandey three for 65, Gourav Yadav four for 44)
At Vizianagaram: Saurashtra 430 vs. Rajasthan 62 for one in 19 overs (Manender Singh 44 batting)
At Visakhapatnam: Odisha 150 & 74 for no loss in 22 overs (Sandeep Pattnaik 40 batting) vs. Vidarbha 272 for six decl. in 102 overs (Faiz Fazal 99, Ganesh Satish 74, Deepak Behera three for 35)
At New Delhi (Karnail Singh stadium): Maharashtra 210 & 188 in 61.4 overs (Rahul Tripathi 32, Kedar Jadhav 56, Ashish Kumar three for 44, Shahbaz Nadeem three for 43) vs. Jharkhand 306 in 105.2 overs (Kaushal Singh 130, Virat Singh 46, Saurabh Tiwary 33, Shrikant Mundhe four for 102, Anupam Sanklecha five for 71) & 56 for four in 13 overs
At Vadodara: Assam 193 & 100 for three in 37 overs (Rahul Hazarika 40, Amit Verma 33 batting) vs. Delhi 589 for eight decl. in 128.1 overs (Unmukt Chand 55, Nitish Rana 146, Rishabh Pant 146, Pradeep Sangwan 100 n.o., Milind Kumar 92, Abu Nechim five for 106)
At Bhubaneswar: Himachal 357 in 93.2 overs (Stephen three for 74) vs. Andhra 47 for one in 14 overs
At Ranchi: Tripura 118 & 149 in 84.3 (Ajay Mandal four for 55) overs lost to Chhattisgarh 255 & 13 for one in 3.5 overs
At Nagpur: Goa 164 & five for no loss in 2.3 overs vs. Hyderabad 388 in 130 overs (Akshath Reddy 128, Bavanaka Sandeep 108, Mehdi Hasan 62, S. Badrinath 41, Amit Yadav three for 73)
At Mumbai: Services 197 & 148 for two in 44 overs (Nakul Verma 54 batting, Aanshul Gupta 40, Soumik Chatterjee 33) vs. Haryana 248 in 89.5 overs (Shubham Rohilla 92, Joginder Sharma 46 n.o., Rajat Paliwal 33, Khalid Ahmad four for 86, Vikas Yadav four for 80)
At Kalyani: Kerala 306 in 102.1 overs (Sanju Samson 154, Jalaj Saxena 69, Samiullah Beigh six for 82, Ram Dayal three for 88) vs. Jammu & Kashmir 106 for five in 29 overs (Adil Reshi 40, Iqbal Abdullah three for 32)
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